Abortion and Politics – The Plain Facts

When an election is around the corner people should take a deep breath and stop, look and listen and remember one important fact: that an election is around the corner.

That is to say, errr, these people are politicians. They want to be in power. The way they get into power is to get enough people to vote for them. The way they get enough people to vote for them is to promise things to people. The other way they get people to vote for them is to say what people want to hear.

When it comes to the abortion issue, those who are pro life should be very realistic. The Republicans are not going to repeal Roe vs. Wade. They’re not even going to try. They’ve done the homework. They’ve check the opinion polls and they have crafted a statement on abortion that pleases as many people as possible. “Yes, we’re pro-life!” they say. “Yes, we’re against abortion!” So the right wing social issues people are satisfied. “But we would allow abortion for cases of incest, rape and to save the mother’s life.” So those who don’t like abortion very much but are not extremists are also satisfied. When it actually comes down to it, the most we can hope for is that President Romney will bring back the ban on federal funding for abortion, perhaps appoint some pro life Supreme Court judges and bounce the issue back to the States where more abortion-limiting legislation has a chance.

The Democrats are also using abortion as an election game, only they are in favor of abortion, and they’re in favor of abortion for the same reason that the Republicans are against it: to win votes. By being in favor of abortion they hope to win the liberal vote, the feminist vote, and the youth vote. An Obama administration will continue to promote abortion–not because it believes in abortion and not only because it believes in women’s rights or freedom of choice or all that other stuff–but because they want to keep their particular constituency happy.

What response should a Catholic take? A Catholic should weigh up the two candidates and ask not so much which one will make the country exactly the way we want it to be, but which one will do less harm? Extremists like to talk about how an Obama administration will take away more of our freedoms and usher in a police state. I don’t, myself, see signs of this in any real way, but if an emergency does come up I am sure both a Republican and a Democratic administration would declare martial law. Totalitarian government in the USA? Military takeover of our country? If it’s going to happen it could happen just as easily under a right wing as a left wing regime.

What disturbs me about so many conservative Christians is that they confuse their doctrinal and moral religious conservatism with being members of the Republican party, and they believe their Christian beliefs and morals are best upheld by the Republicans. What they don’t see is that there are plenty of other Christians who really and truly do believe that their morals and beliefs are best upheld by the Democrats. Both sides find the other side incomprehensible.

The truly Catholic position is to see the good on both sides and the bad on both sides and to make a wise choice for the lesser of two evils. In their advice Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship the bishops make a very clear point:

As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s posi- tion on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

To paraphrase: You can’t support a candidate just because he is in favor of something good if he is, at the same time, in favor of something intrinsically evil. The intrinsic evil he supports means you must not offer him support even if he is proposing other things which are good. This springs from the basic Catholic moral doctrine that you cannot commit (or allow) an intrinsic evil in order to accomplish a genuine good. In other words, you can’t do something wrong because you think it might have a good outcome.

Catholics are duty bound to consider the candidates seriously, to form their consciences seriously and then vote responsibly. I began by being fairly cynical of the politicians who will say anything to get elected. If more of the electorate were seriously informed with consciences that were intelligently formed we’d find that politicians would soon have to change their tune.

Instead of pandering to the masses they would have to appeal to an informed, intelligent and involved electorate, and that would give all of them pause.


  • http://revelation315.wordpress.com Revelation 3:15

    So if we cannot vote for a supporter of intrinsic evil, what about when both candidate hold an intrinsic evil. I know the Forming Consciences states in Paragraph 36 “When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.” Is it better to take the extraordinary step of not voting in this election, or to carefully deliberate which candidate will less likely advance the evil?

    • Ted Seeber

      Kind of like with weekly usage of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, I’ve taken the Extraordinary step of voting third party my entire adult life. It is the only way I can get up the Wednesday Morning afterward, look myself in the mirror, and shave.

    • Julie C.

      I am not quite sure what evil could be worse than murder of a human life and denying freedom of religion, a freedom on which this country was formed.

  • Ted Seeber

    There are, after all, 4 other intrinsic evils to consider.

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  • Michael

    I don’t understand, in one paragraph you say “The truly Catholic position is to see the good on both sides and the bad on both sides and to make a wise choice for the lesser of two evils.” Then you go onto say “The intrinsic evil he supports means you must not offer him support even if he is proposing other things which are good.” These to statements seem to contradict.
    I don’t ever seem to remember our Lord choosing the lesser of two evils. How about this, stop being a pawn in a system that does not work, there are other choices that you can make that do not involve the only two Candidates that can afford to get on the news or the ballot in each state or that ask you to go against your conscience. In my opinion, I can not see how any Catholic could vote for any of the 2 major parties and not come away feeling like you need a shower.

  • Tracy

    I think we have to be careful when we try to put Jesus into our political system and say He would/would not do this or that. We don’t know what He would do if He could vote because He basically indicated that we are to pay taxes and honor the king. He didn’t get to vote in His time.

    In this election, I consider what is likely to do the least amount of damage. Voting for a third party might make a person feel better, but it won’t help the unborn, religious freedom, etc. If Obama is re-elected, then we know that he will relentlessly pursue legalizing gay marriage, unlimited abortion, continued strangling of religious liberty, etc. No one has the least doubt about that. He’s not even trying to hide it behind cute slogans. Romney is not the best man to be President. I have yet to see one who is (or woman either, for that matter). We have to do the best we can with what we have. Life on this earth is messy no matter which way you vote.

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  • http://elizabethk-fthnfort.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth K.

    I agree with you in the main, but the Supreme Court issue is a big one this time around. The NY Times just ran an editorial (I linked to it in a recent post) which makes the claim that possibly 30 states will *automatically* outlaw or limit abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Even allowing for the fact that this stat comes from sources who are using fear-mongering to get votes for Obama, it indicates that something pretty extraordinary could happen if the law were overturned. It’s not the president’s job to create laws, or to overturn a SC decision–but if Guttmacher is right then half of the nation is having its will subverted by this law. To me, that casts the issue of who gets to decide on the next few justices in a whole new light.

  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

    Your reading is wrong. You CAN support a candidate who supports something good even though that candidate also supports an intrinsic evil. The good supported just needs to rise to the level of a grave moral concern, and your support must be in spite of the intrinsic evil. See paragraph 35.

  • John Cronin


    1. Does anyone think that the US, UK, or any other western nation is gonna re criminalise abortion any time soon?

    2. In the unlikely event that they were to do so, does anyone believe that abortions would then cease to occur, or even that there would be much of a dent in the figures?

    3. How many abortions occurred annually in the US prior to Roe v Wade? Or is it Fr Longenecker’s belief that no woman in the history of the United States ever terminated her pregnancy prior to 1973? There is a rather large difference between a law being on the statute book and a law actually being enforced. Think of prohibition. I don’t think too many gyneacologists went to jail in America for performing terminations in the 100 years prior to 73.

  • John Cronin

    I wish the Prophet Mohammed’s mother had an abortion.

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